The Calla Lily – Week 8

Simplicity and Beauty

Calla Lillies 1

Calla Lillies (Photo by: Michael Lant - Click on image to enlarge)

I favour minimalism. Stripped of all extraneous details there is only form, texture and hue, each of which must be meticulously executed because there is nowhere for flaws and imperfection to hide. The finished results look deceptively simple. The calla lily is the perfect flower to use when I want to create a design that is minimal and elegant.

As a flower, the calla lily is the very essence of femininity and sensuality. Resembling the form of a woman, this flower was a popular subject in American art in the latter half of the 19th century, especially after Freud provided a sexual interpretation of its form. Georgia O’Keefe used the calla lily as a recurring provocative theme in many of her paintings and became known as “the lady of the lilies”. Nineteenth century art photographers also used the calla lily as an erotic motif. Diego Rivera, a famous early 20th century artist, also depicted the calla lily in a number of his works.

The calla lily also shows up in the fashion world, where it plays a key role in the heritage of the fashion house of Calvin Klein. A favourite flower of the designer, the calla lily inspired his latest fragrance – Beauty. The target market for this perfume is the mature woman who is feminine and sophisticated and self confident with a good dose of inner strength and beauty. If a calla lily had a personality, that is how I would describe it. Michael George, a New York based floral designer and a great source of inspiration for me, creates the stunning arrangements for the house of Calvin Klein, most of which use the calla lily exclusively. George also used the calla lily, spray painted black, for the dramatic wedding bouquets he created for the launch of a recent Vera Wang wedding dress collection.

In actual fact, the calla lily is not a lily at all. Its true name is Zantedeschia, and it is a perennial herbaceous plant, native to southern Africa. The flowering part of the plant, known as the inflorescence, is funnel shaped with one central spike. The Zantedeschia is poisonous due to a concentration of calcium oxalate crystals in the flesh of the flower.

The calla is symbolic of magnificence, beauty, purity and appreciation and is a popular choice for wedding bouquets. Interestingly, it is also symbolic of rebirth and resurrection and is widely used in funeral arrangements.

Calla Lilies 2

2 huge brilliant green callas in an ultra simple, yet stylish arrangement (Photo by: Michael Lant - Click on image to enlarge)

Recipe and Instructions

This arrangement (image at beginning of blog) looks deceptively simple to make. However, the first time I made it, it took almost an hour to get it right. I was being particularly meticulous as I wanted every line to be “just so” because this was a special gift for my classy friend Robin, in celebration of the opening of her new store 13 Reasons in Port Dover, Ontario.


  • 9 – 12 stems medium size calla lilies
  • Clear hair band
  • 4 blades variegated lily grass
  • Tall narrow square glass vase


  1. Starting with the 2 longest callas, lay pairs of stems on top of the previous pairs so that their flower head sits beneath the previous, in a step pattern. Trim all stems to the length of the shortest stem in the bunch.
  2. Secure with the band about 1/3 up from the bottom of cut end.
  3. Cover the band with one piece of grass, securing the ends by tucking them into the flower stems.
  4. Loop the other 3 stems so they compliment the shape of the calla lily stems.
  5. Position in vase. Fill half way with water that has been conditioned with plant food.

Quote of the week: Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul. Luther Burbank

Next Post:
Chysanthemums – you know autumn is on its way when they arrive at your local supermarket.

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One Comment

  1. susan armstrong
    Posted September 17, 2010 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    Sleek & slender and absolutely stunning! Thanks for the inspiration Liz!

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